The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Subscribing To Foolishness …

Our industry loves to follow trends.

Storytelling.

Programatic.

Digital transformation.

DTC.

And the current fave – subscription services.

Each one promising better results than what went before – and yet they often leave a trail of destruction in its wake.

Part of this is because some companies do it simply to look like they are not being left behind, regardless of the fact the business situation they are in means it is either inaaprioate or irrelevant. And part of it is because the impact being promised by the agencies and consultancies is more fiction than a career write-up on Linkedin.

Subscription models are just another example in a long line of examples.

We are seeing companies jump on the subscription model as if it’s a guarantee of unbelievable success.

That by simply offering your product or service at a small monthly fee, untold riches will be raining down on you.

It isn’t.

For a start you need a quality product that fulfils a continuous need – real or perceived.

NIKE’s brilliant Adventure Club is a brilliant example of this.

It satisfies a real need with a quality product that makes sense to parents and appeals to kids.

Disney+ is another.

Both of those are examples of companies who know their audience, know their business and know how to offer a service that has real value to their customers emotionally and culturally.

Then there’s companies like Prisma.

Remember them?

They’re the company who was momentarily popular with it’s smartphone photo filtering app.

Well today, they’re trying to charge £65 a year to use their ‘service’.

SIXTY FIVE POUNDS!!!!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Now I appreciate that works out to be only £1+ a week … people are taking endless amounts of photos each and every day … but while that might all sound a perfect justification for a consultant to sell a subscription service, it fails on so many of the basics.

Their plan shows no understanding of who they are talking to.

Nor any understanding of the actual business they are in.

And don’t get me started on the lack of understanding what problem they’re solving or the lack of evolution their product offers.

It is a perfect example of bandwagon jumping.

A desperate, last-chance-saloon act to try and stay alive.

A business model based on hope rather than actual strategy.

Someone sold them this.

I don’t know if it was someone internally or external, but this one-size-fits all, white label productising approach to business is killing business.

Yes there may be common issues.

Yes there may be common considerations.

But thinking you can just plug and play a solution because it may have worked for someone else is almost criminal.

And yet many companies don’t want to hear truth.

They don’t want to listen to what their real problem is.

They don’t want to accept people only have a limited amount of cash to spend on these things.

Instead, they happily pay exorbitant amounts to outsource their responsibility for a solution that looks like everyone else’s solution.

As with so many of these ‘business approach trends’, the real winners are those who are the most adept at selling the problem rather than the solution. The organisations who ‘package approaches’ that allow the C-Suite to feel they’re doing something, even though they have been designed to substantially drive the ‘sellers’ growth. ‘Approaches’ that will be sold almost identically to the next client, regardless of their industry or situation.

And the market thinks this is a good thing.

Selling bandaids at ridiculously high prices.

And while PRISMA may have had no other option left to them than to jump on the subscription model bandwagon, you can almost guarantee this approach won’t work for them … because their problem isn’t really price, their problem is they’re not a business.



Dear Daily Mail, Can You Please Leave The Hilariously Stupid Stories To Viz …

The Daily Mail.

God, how I hate it.

Pedlars of hate, half-truths and prejudice, while all the time claiming they are a ‘family newspaper’ that practices the highest standards of journalism.

For anyone who may be in doubt of how bollocks that is, I suggest you do one of four things.

1. Read a single edition of their rubbish.

2. Read about some of their biggest lies, that they tried to claim were true.

3. Read how they – and others – value convenience over journalism.

4. Read the rest of this post.

OK, I know I’ve written a lot about my hatred of the Daily Mail but just recently, it appears their arrogance of getting away with any old bullshit is reaching new heights.

I absolutely appreciate how hard it must be to fill a newspaper every day.

I can’t imagine the pressure they must be under given they always start from zero.

But I still don’t get how they can consider themselves a serious journalistic force when they post stories – on their front page – like these …

… and …

I mean, come on.

This is what they consider news?

A ‘find the obvious soldiers’ game and a ‘grey is the colour of chavs’ article?

Seriously, the wonderfully ridiculous adult comic Viz is more mature than that and they once ran a piece that said cat food manufacturers should be launching a ‘cat arse’ flavour, rather than chicken or fish or duck.

Look, I get in a war situation the enemy may find it difficult to spot a couple of SAS soldiers dressed in white from a distance when it’s snowing. But on a close up picture where they literally tell you there’s SAS soldiers dressed in white … well, it is even easier than those shitty hook-a-duck games you get at dodgy fairs around the country.

And as for positioning people who paint THEIR OWN HOME grey as enemies of British culture, well surely they’ve just hit peak Daily Mail condescending judgement?

What next, an ‘expose’ on how people’s choice of curtains, flowers or sunglasses are ruining Britain?

Christ, it’s grey.

It’s not like that person who built a fibreglass shark on their roof.

Or pained their house with red stripes, specifically to fuck-off the neighbours.

Or placed the Freddie Mercury statue from the Dominion Theatre roof in their garden.

The way the Daily Mail are going on, you’d imagine they were the national newspaper of the communist party.

If the colour of a house makes them – and their readers – so angry, it makes me want to hire a team to find the home addresses of all the editorial staff at The Mail and their readers and have them go round and paint their buildings different shades of grey and pink.

Instead, I’ll just be happy that my house is partially grey and that will deeply offend anyone associated with The Daily Mail.

And to think I didn’t believe I could love my house even more …



The Collab. A Better Twist Than The Sixth Sense Ending …

Recently we’ve been seeing a lot of collabs between brands and artists.

I don’t mean bullshit influencer social content, but proper collaboration in terms of product creation … albeit that it often ends up being just ‘logo swapping’.

Of course that is still marketing, but it’s a bit more effort than a celebrity just fronting a TV or print campaign.

Or is it?

You see, while the people at the brand all think they’re going to become cool and rich by associating with someone influential with millions of fans, the reality is somewhat difference.

Maybe once upon a time that was always the case … and when it’s done right it can absolutely still be the case … but for a lot of the bullshit collabs we’re seeing being pimped out by certain brands [you all know the ones, especially the tech bros desperately trying to look like they’re part of youth culture even though all they are is a fucking ‘productivity tool”], they don’t understand the artist and their fans have a very different view of the ‘partnership’.

To them, the association is not an act of endorsement.

Nor does it make the brand partner cool.

And it absolutely won’t define their loyalty.

The reality is the association is nothing more than a ‘get rich quick’ scheme for the artist and their fans love them for it.

Unlike previous generations, they don’t see it as an act of selling out.

In fact it couldn’t be more opposite because they see it as an act of awesome.

Taking millions off a brand for a moment in their day.

Something that will be forgotten as soon as it’s done.

A novelty for the fans to buy but not to keep buying.

Basically, playing the corporations at their own game but they end up the real winner.

That’s success right there.

Not that most brands understand that.

Most of them still think they’re playing the artist. That money means they can get whatever they want out of them. Why wouldn’t they, brands have been using, abusing and stealing from artists for decades.

But it’s very different now.

Years ago, I was working with a very famous brand who did a collab with a very cool, up and coming rapper.

The brand were beside themselves because they thought this association was going to change their fortune forever.

On set, the artist was a bit of a nightmare – not saying or doing anything the brand wanted them to do – in fact they even used their social channels to tell their fans they weren’t doing this because they loved the brand, but because they were getting big money.

Unsurprisingly, the brand team were not very happy about that, but they reasoned that the association would still be worth it for them in terms of awareness and sales.

And maybe it was … but the real winner was the artist because their fans thought what they’d done was even more cool.

Talking shit about the very people who had hired them and still getting paid millions upon millions for a few hours work.

That’s power.

That’s influence

That’s a life goal we should all have.

So while collabs can be cool when done for the right reasons and the right ways, many brands need to understand that while – at best – they may have a boost to their short-term profits, the cool doesn’t actually rub off on them. In fact, if anything, their desperate desire to look cool to millions has just made them the laughing stock to the very millions they wanted to appeal too.

Because while they think they’re hustling the artist, the artist and their fans are hustling them.

Welcome to the new definition of power.



Some Advertising Forms Memories That Never Leave You …

I remember when the ice cream above first came out.

It was 1982 and it was like nothing I’d ever seen before.

For a start it was sold as a lump of ice cream.

Oh no, Viennetta was a ‘dessert-cake’ … a blend of sophistication and excellence, crafted by experts for the most special of occasions.

I wanted to try it soooooo badly, but I remember having to wait an age before I could … but as it was light years from any other ice cream I’d ever had, when I finally got it in my gob, it absolutely lived up to the anticipation.

38 years later, and I know this ‘sophisticated dessert cake’ is only £1 at the local Co-op – which means it’s about as sophisticated as an episode of Tipping Point – however it still feels like I’m having a very, very special ice-cream experience whenever I have one. Which isn’t often because somehow, I still think it is only for rare occasions of celebration.

What’s interesting is that when I had it, I posted a photo on instagram and the response was of equal adoration.

And then people went into celebrating other low-rent, mainstream shite we thought was the height of sophistication.

Like After Eight Mints.

Or Ice Magic … the sauce you poured on to your shitty Asda vanilla ice cream [or Neopolitan, if your Mum and Dad were feeling extravagant] that then TRANSFORMED INTO A SOLID LAYER OF CHOCOLATE TO ELEVATE YOUR SHITTY ICE CREAM EXPERIENCE.

Incredible.

But of all the comments I got, my fave was from Kev Chesters with this …

And while I loved it for a whole host of reasons, the main one was his order of using a teaspoon.

Not a dessert spoon.

Not a table spoon. [Though this might be the same as a dessert spoon]

But a teaspoon.

Because regardless how old you are.

Regardless how many Viennetta’s you could buy and eat.

A teaspoon was the psychological way of making your favourite desserts last longer.

Smaller spoon.

Smaller amounts of food on it.

More spoonfuls to enjoy.

I still do it and it made my day to know Kev did too.

Which all should act as a reminder that advertising is an incredibly powerful force … especially when it’s targeting people who know no better but dream of being more than they think they will end up being.

Thank you Viennetta. For the memories, the experience and the taste.



The Opposite Of Agile …

Look at this chart doing the rounds right now.

Look at it!!!

Do you know what it is?

Allow me to tell you …

It’s corporate fear culture disguised as a couple of million quid in fees for Deloitte’s.

That simple.

Hell, it even makes that utter insane Pepsi logo design process book look clear and simply in comparison. And let me reassure you, it was neither clear. Or simple.

Look, I get there’s a lot of complexity in this world.

I get that solutions often require a number of processes, skillsets and collaboration.

But come on … this is ridiculous, especially under the title of ‘agility’.

All it reminds me of is something one of my amazing mentors once told me.

He is an extremely successful businessman who has interacted with all manner of consultants at the highest level, so this is an informed perspective, not some bitter and twisted creative obsessed strategist.

“When a solution is more complex than the problem, then you’re not buying the answer, you’re buying the C-Suite’s annual bonus”.

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As an aside, I’ve written about a bunch of other brilliance he has told/taught me over the years, which you can read here.
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I look at that chart and keep thinking it’s basically a version of the board game Monopoly.

And then I realise that’s EXACTLY what it is, because it’s designed for you to keep paying Deloitte every time you pass go.

Or get lost.

It’s the ultimate selling tool.

Because not only has it been designed to put the fear of god into organisations about things potentially going wrong, it doesn’t necessarily have an output other than ‘business as usual’.

The last time they had something so powerful is when they made billions helping companies worried that the millennium bug would bring down their computer systems.

Of course, every few years they come out with something else to keep the money coming in.

Digital Transformation is one of the most recent fads, which my mentor [yet again] had an interesting take on:

“The C-Suite buy digital transformation because it sounds modern and progressive. That they’re moving ahead into a brave, new World. What they’re really buying is infastucture modernisation … designed to simply not leave them too far behind”.

Now it is important to note not all consultants are bad.

In fact, some are brilliant and fascinating. Red Associates are a particular fave of mine.

[You can read about them in more detail here]

And then there’s FNDR, with my old mate Nick Barham … who are doing interesting things and aren’t packaging it all into making a new logo or website to justify their fee.

However this stuff is ridiculous, and while we can point and laugh and say the people who sell this are charlatans and the people who buy it are idiots, the reality is they’re buying more of it – and for more money – than anything adland has done in decades.

But here’s the thing.

Anything is easy if you [1] don’t have to execute it [2] don’t care about the effectiveness and [3] only care about the cash.

Which leads me to something a mate of mine told me recently.

The difference between a liar and a bullshitter.

A liar knows the reality of a situation but changes/exaggerates the facts within the context of that to achieve their goal.

A bullshitter doesn’t care about truth, so will say whatever is needed to achieve their goal.

And with that, I’ll leave you to decide which one this chart belongs to.